The global electric vehicle market is currently dominated by Tesla. After unveiling the first mass-market electric car more than a decade ago, Tesla has gone on to become the largest electric vehicle maker on the globe, selling more than 2.5 million units worldwide. However, the Texas-based company’s dominance has been threatened by the entrance of new companies into the EV segment, most of them established automakers with decades of experience and millions of sales under their belts.
BMW is one such automaker looking to surpass companies such as Tesla by leveraging cylindrical battery designs in its electric cars. Batteries are without a doubt the most important components in EVs, generating power for the vehicle and accounting for much of a vehicle’s cost and weight. We still have a ways to go in terms of making EV batteries energy dense, efficient and affordable, especially if electric cars are to replace conventional internal combustion engine cars (ICE).
The German automaker’s Gen6 battery system could make BMW a leader in EV battery cost, range and efficiency by using cylindrical cells rather than rectangular prismatic cells. Although the new cylindrical battery cells will utilize the same NMC chemistry and will be developed by existing partners EVE and CATL, they are expected to increase energy density, invariably allowing BMW to pack more kWh in the same space and reduce charging times.
Furthermore, BMW hopes this battery design will allow the company to reduce carbon emissions during the manufacturing process. However, the most impactful benefit of using cylindrical batteries would be the cost savings. As it stands, EV batteries make up around 40% of the cost of BMW EVs, significantly contributing to their overall restrictive prices. Since cylindrical batteries are significantly cheaper, BMW would be able to price its EV models similarly to traditional gasoline-powered cars.
This would allow BMW to tap into a wide portion of the market that simply can’t afford to purchase electric cars at their current prices. And with the novel battery cells increasing battery density by 20%, boosting range by 30% and reducing charging times by 30%, EV models equipped with cylindrical cells could cause a major disruption to Tesla’s dominance. They would be cheaper with a lot more range and reduced charging time, making them much more attractive to the average American driver.
BMW also plans on making its electric cars much more efficient, with the company stating during the Sustainability Through Innovation Day that the Gen6 battery platform will allow it to reduce power consumption by optimizing key areas of its vehicles, such as aerodynamics, tires and powertrain efficiency. The German automaker expects to unlock up to 20% more range via these optimizations.
Other companies, such as QuantumScape Corp., are also looking to develop more cost-efficient and longer-lasting electric vehicle batteries, so this field is one to watch as innovations keep being brought into the market.
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